Our Detailed Guide to Camping at Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Malaekahana State Recreation Area is an ideal destination for both first-time campers and those yet to experience the unique charm of camping in Hawaii.

Camping tents at Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Nestled on Oahu’s scenic North Shore, Malaekahana State Recreation Area has been our go-to sanctuary for years.

Its sprawling green spaces, access to pristine beachfront, and a harmony of chirping birds have always served as our perfect escape.

From our countless camping trips here, we’ve gathered a wealth of tips and tricks that we believe will be valuable to first-time campers or those who’ve never had the pleasure of camping at Malaekahana.

In this article, we’ll be your guide to everything Malaekahana, from securing your campsite to soaking in its incredible surroundings!

Malaekahana State Recreation Area Camping Details

Campground at Malaekahana State Recreation Area
  • Campsite Type: Marked tent sites with picnic tables in a grassy area near the beach.
  • Price: $20 per campsite per night for Hawaii Residents, $30 for non-residents. Maximum 10 people per campsite.
  • Camping open: Friday night through Wednesday night
  • Camping hours: Setup/check-in from 3 pm; Check-out by 12 pm.
  • Gate hours: 7 am – 7:45 pm from April 1 through Labor Day. 7 am – 6:45 pm after Labor Day through March 31.
  • Parking: Ample parking near campsites.
  • Water: All water from park spigots is potable.
  • Showers: Freshwater showers are available near the beach and in the restrooms.
  • Sinks & Toilets: Sinks are scattered throughout the campsites and two public bathroom facilities are available.
  • Tables: One picnic table is provided per campsite.
  • Campfires: No open fires are allowed. Grills are not available, bring your own.
  • Pets: Pets are not allowed.
  • Official Website: https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/all,details,1681.html
Parking area at Malaekahana State Recreation Area
There is ample parking at Malaekahana State Recreation area. If the paved lot fills up, there is an overflow area that has even more parking.
Sink at Malaekahana State Recreation Area
There are four sinks around the campsites that you can use to wash your dishes or fill up your water.

How to Reserve a Campsite at Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Screenshot for the official website for reserving campsite permits for Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Reservations are made via the State of Hawaii Wiki Permits System. Create an ehawaii.gov account if you don’t already have one.

On the Wiki Permits website, select your date.

When browsing for a campsite permit, ‘Y’ means that the campsite is available, while ‘N’ means that the campsite is already taken.

Note that camping is unavailable on Wednesdays and Thursdays – they will always be denoted by a ‘C’ for ‘closed’ on the permits website.

For weekends or holidays, book your campsite as early as possible – ideally 30 days prior to camping when the reservation window opens.

Once you select your date range, provide your details, including the names of all adult campers and ID number for the permit holder.

After filling out the form and making payment, download and print the camping permit and parking passes. Have your printed camping permit displayed in your camp and display your parking permit on your car’s dashboard.

Aerial view of camping area at Malaekahana State Recreation Area
Here’s a view of Camping Area A, with campsites A1 – A27.

Our Tips for Camping at Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Based on numerous camping trips at Malaekahana, we have gained a wealth of knowledge.

We’ve tried out a wide array of camping styles here, from expansive car-camping arrangements to the more minimalistic backpacker setups.

For first-timers, here are a few essential tips:

  • Consider camping on a weeknight. The campground often reaches capacity during the weekends.
  • Be prepared for a short walk to your campsite: The parking lot is conveniently located near the camping area, but you can’t drive right up to your campsite. Therefore, consider bringing a cart to unload your car or be prepared to carry all your camping gear a short distance (about 200 feet) to your campsite.
  • Be aware of close neighbors: Malaekahana’s campsites are in proximity to each other. If you camp on a busy weekend, you might find yourself making new friends!
  • Keep your food secure: Malaekahana is home to chickens, birds, cats, and flies, all of which are opportunistic feeders. Ensure your food is properly secured to avoid unwanted attention from these local residents.
  • Familiarize yourself with bathroom locations: There are two bathroom facilities at Malaekahana State Recreation Area, located at opposite ends of the park. Both come equipped with flush toilets and showers.
  • Pack for the weather: Malaekahana generally enjoys pleasant weather – not too hot or too cold. However, prepare for wind and possible showers, as they are not uncommon in the area.
  • There might be a few insects: While bugs haven’t been a major problem at Malaekahana, we’ve encountered mosquitoes occasionally. So, carrying bug spray isn’t absolutely necessary but could come in handy.
  • Consider the side gate for late arrivals: Once the main gate closes, a side gate near the camping area remains accessible. Connected by a road from the highway, this gate serves as an entry point for latecomers. We don’t recommend using this gate to bring in gear as it’s quite a long walk to haul stuff, but it can be used for latecomers in your group. After parking outside, you can walk in (refer to the map below for the side gate’s location).

Swimming at Malaekahana State Recreation Area

The ocean fronting the campsites is rocky and not ideal for swimming.

Our favorite spot for swimming is a small sandy inlet on the park’s northern edge.

This spot, nestled within the rocky coast, offers water that’s about waist-deep, making it suitable for swimming, wading, or just lounging about!

Camping at Malaekahana State Recreation Area – Our Verdict

view of beach at malaekahana state recreation area

In our opinion, Malaekahana shines as a rare gem among camping spots. Its accessibility, facilities, and peaceful ambiance set it apart. Its location on Oahu’s North Shore is simply the icing on the cake.

With easy access to campsites and comprehensive facilities, it’s a fantastic spot for families and children.

Although there are some swimming areas, the ocean around Malaekahana is rocky, making it a favorite spot for fishermen rather than swimmers and surfers.

But swimming at Malaekahana is still a treat – the swimming areas at Malaekahana are usually quite empty so there’s a good chance that you’ll have the swimming area all to yourself.

What we love most about camping at Malaekahana is the weather. Unlike other campgrounds on O‘ahu that can get very hot or windy, the weather here remains pretty stable.

However, being in Hawaii, passing showers are a regular occurrence. Be prepared for a bit of rain, just in case.

Trey Lewis is an outdoor enthusiast. Whether its hiking knife-edge ridges or just fishing by the river, Trey isn't afraid to get dirty in search of the next adventure.

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